My Monthlong Miscarriage

January was a weird month. I came home from Taipei with the bird flu. (Or something like it.) It knocked out my entire family for a week and a half. Sometime during the feverish blur, our toddler’s nanny quit and moved out. I scrambled to find childcare and ultimately flew my aunt in from LA for two weeks, which meant a house guest we weren’t originally expecting. When I wasn’t convalescing, I reported a few radio stories, blogged a lot, tweeted even more, traveled to Nashville and back, started teaching my Medill journalism students and drank lots of iced green tea. And all the while, I was pregnant. Kind of.

The adage is that you can never be “kind of” pregnant, but when you learn you’re pregnant with an empty gestational sac — the condo that’s supposed to house an embryo is without a resident — and after an agonizing weeklong wait, doctors find a lifeless, microscopic little bean in a condo collapsing all around it, that seems pretty “in-between” to me. So that was most my January.

I started miscarrying on Chinese New Year’s Day. For the same reason I delivered daughter Eva without pain meds, I’ve always trusted my body to know what to do at the right time. As we rang in the new Lunar Year and the sun emerged for the first time in weeks, my body reliably ousted an embryo that would never become anything more. I felt both disappointed and relieved that my gestational limbo was almost over.

None of this is to say I treat this experience as unimportant — it is physically uncomfortable and emotionally disorienting. But I feel no shame about what happened. The more openly we discuss the range of female experiences, the freer we become. For better or for worse, for a huge chunk of us, the experience of womanhood includes miscarriage. I join a very, very large club. And I am better for being through it.

But dear god, I hope February is a lot more fun. 

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Happy 15th Birthday, Saidee

My momma's beagle.

My momma’s beagle.

For all my Texas pride, Saidee’s the only member of the Hu family that is a living, breathing Texas native. She was born in Grand Prairie, the runt of the litter. I remember her dog father being a show dog named “Copper Mountain Cody” — all the official AKC show dogs in her lineage were named by the street they called home.

I was a junior in high school at the time and, knowing I’d be leaving home for college the next year, scoured the classifieds to find a puppy daughter for my dog-loving mom. We hadn’t had a dog in our house since the unfortunate and painful hit-and-run death of my cocker spaniel, when I was 12.

My best friend Erin helped me choose Saidee — we drove out to Grand Prairie in my red Jeep Cherokee and visited the litter, which included three boisterous boys and one girl who seemed to struggle getting to feed as much as her brothers. She also had more brown in her coloring and an identifiable spot, so I picked her out and called dibs until she was old enough to come home. I snuck her into the house in my coat pocket — it was Christmas-time, 15 years ago — and presented her to my mom later that night.

We all fell in love. Saidee lived with my parents until my mom was transferred abroad, at which point she lived with my brother Roger and his then-girlfriend Tracy, in Tucson. She moved in with me and Matty in 2007 and has been with us ever since. In her 15 years, she’s lived in four states, survived a cancer scare, ran away and returned at least five times*, moved across the country by plane and car half a dozen times, explored the nation’s monuments, trekked through the Appalachian mountains, eaten everything that she shouldn’t have, put up with a total of four cats and now, a toddler.

When I got Saidee, I was a girl. Now I have a little girl of my own. We truly grew up together. I don’t mean this to diminish parenting a human in any way, but so much of my confidence as a momma came from learning how to really relate with Saidee and meet her needs over these past 15 years.

Now that she’s 15, she spends most of her days sleeping, has gone deaf in both her ears and is vision impaired, too. But she’s still spirited and spry — getting hyper and running around in circles when we come home, rolling around on her back for belly rubs, tirelessly rearranging herself in bed in order to snag the perfect spot, which somehow always seems to take up a lot more space than her 23 lb body would let on.

Happy Birthday, Saidee. I love you.

*In the most ridiculous Saidee runaway story, Saidee ran away to the home of another Asian-American woman in St. Louis, where she was living at the time. The woman renamed her “DuDu Peng” for the days they were together. I only know this because she took Saidee to the vet for her lifelong affliction with skin allergies, and got a prescription. My dad only tracked down Saidee because he was out at an intersection putting up Lost signs and across the street, his friend spotted “Found” signs showing Saidee/Dudu’s image.

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Thanksgiving 2013

I’m always thankful for family, and mine is particularly badass partly because it’s huge and includes a lot of foodies and eaters. So Thanksgiving with my extended family in Maryland always involves a lot of serious eating but it’s really more like a giant face-stuffing scrum than it is a “lunch” or a “dinner.” Part of the reason is because we have about 30 family members plus kids involved each year, so we don’t sit around one giant table, and we eat in phases starting at the lunch hour but powering on through til dinner. It generally includes our hyper-physical four-year-old cousin Luc beating and wailing on Stiles for a good chunk of time, and Cousin Clarence reliably brings Turducken — the Louisiana favorite involving a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey. (Note: My cousins the Ho brothers enjoy some cult fame in a tiny corner of the Star Wars and kung fu choreography-loving internet for their 2002 fight video, Art of the Saber. True story.)

Our meat selections felt endless — Suk, my cousin’s wife Diem’s sister’s husband — got himself a smoker and making brisket has become a new hobby of his. So on top of two fried turkeys, the Turducken, a ham and endless sides, we had two choices of brisket — spicy and sweet. Our pals Audrey and Patrick have spent so much time flying back and forth to family this year that they stayed in town for Turkey Day, so they joined us at the Maryland festival of meat, armed with Audrey’s signature brussel sprout salad, which disappeared quickly. Gobble, gobble.

Audrey brought her specialty from her Texas momma's recipe — brussel sprout salad.

Audrey brought her specialty from her Texas momma’s recipe — brussel sprout salad.

The turducken (foreground) and one of our turkeys.

The turducken (foreground) and one of our turkeys.

Cousin Cary goofing off with toddler Eva.

Cousin Cary goofing off with toddler Eva.

Part of our feast included a counter of Asian food — Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean to represent all the Asian types in our family. So Eva dutifully ate from chopsticks.

Part of our feast included a counter of Asian food — Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean to represent all the Asian types in our family. So Eva dutifully ate from chopsticks.

One side of the kitchen was just for sides.

One side of the kitchen was just for sides.

With the newlywed Texas pals Patrick and Audrey, who we brought along.

With the newlywed Texas pals Patrick and Audrey, who we brought along.

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One Year Old Milestones, Courtesy Of My Clever Colleague

I started worrying this weekend that my 13 month old daughter, Eva, was developmentally behind because she’s not as verbal as I was when I was a baby. I started calling my mom “mama” and meaning it at 10 months. Eva is going to be 14 months and still doesn’t do it. She knows only one word — light, in Mandarin. So I’ve been harping about this all day to my friends and colleagues, and my science correspondent friend Geoff, in an effort to poke fun at me and tell me to chill out, sent me this “list” of “milestones.”

Your Child at One Year

Check the milestones your child has reached by his or her 1st birthday. Take this with you and talk with your child’s doctor at every visit about the milestones your child has reached and what to expect next.

What most children do at this age:

Social and Emotional

·         Puts out arm or leg to help with dressing

·         Plays games such as “peek-a-boo” and “pat-a-cake”

·         Shows existential dread

·         Reads you a book when he wants to hear a story

·         Can solve some multivariate algebraic expressions

Language/Communication

·         Responds to iambic pentameter

·         Basic grasp of American Sign Language

·         Says “mama” and “dada” and exclamations like “All things are subject to interpretation whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.”

·         Tries to say words you say

 Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

·         Explores things in different ways, like shaking, banging, throwing

·         Able to replace a manifold gasket and/or ignition coils on most late model cars.

Okay, I get it. I’m obsessing about something that I probably have nothing to worry about. At least I hope not.

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Why I Bring My Daughter To Professional Conventions

Eva in the audience of her dad's session at AAJA's National Convention in New York.

Eva in the audience of her dad’s session at AAJA’s National Convention in New York.

Eva joined me at the Online News Association convention in Atlanta last week, where I spoke about civic data on Thursday, and took part in a responsive design panel on Friday. In her one year on this earth, she’s also attended NewsFoo in Phoenix, AAJA’s national convention in New York and South by Southwest in Austin. It’s always great to see colleagues and heroes of mine at these sorts of things, even though confabs require constant natural language processing (you talk to people ALL DAY AND ALL NIGHT) and generally take place at sprawling Sheratons and Marriotts, which can feel impersonal. But I wouldn’t even go if I weren’t able to bring my Baby E along. Which is why I hope conferences think more caregiving when trying to attract interesting speakers and attendees.

Eva is able to go with me to these professional conferences partly because my husband is also an NPR employee, so we both have flexible jobs and bosses that allow for us both to be gone and take turns caring for the child while we’re also doing our jobs. But besides this week’s Mozilla Fest, which provides free, high-quality babysitting for all its attendees, most of the time these conferences don’t make considerations for caregivers.

At South by Southwest in March, a huge industry conference which many say has outgrown itself, I had to leave every three hours, give up my hard-won parking spots and drive through traffic snarls in order to nurse Eva, before turning around and rushing back to work. My colleague, Kate, who was there the year before, was forced to pump every few hours from the crowded bathrooms of the Austin Convention Center.

My primary reason for bringing Eva with me to these conventions is because I want to be near her even though I’m working. When I was nursing, I had to be near her since the alternative was tedious, mechanical pumping. But the bigger picture reason she comes with is that I think we should normalize the need. Moms, working or not, should be with their babies — and that general philosophy should be better embedded into our work cultures. Ideally, parents shouldn’t be forced into a choice between traveling for work and being with their children. A few relatively inexpensive fixes could help — conferences could make childcare available or offer a way for parents who are bringing their kids to connect and at the very least, make sure the sites chosen include places to change and feed babies.

As Anne Marie Slaughter writes, “The United States lags behind almost all other industrialized countries in providing the goods, services, and incentives that make it possible for women and men to be caregivers as well as breadwinners.”

By making caregivers and caregiving a consideration, diversity in conference rosters can include really interesting women who would might otherwise decide it’s not worth the trouble of attending sans baby. You’ve seen the photos of long lines for men’s rooms at tech conferences, signaling the dearth of women who take part in these events. Perhaps just thinking a little more about meeting the needs of caregivers could mean a more well-rounded group of conference participants, and richer experience for all.

My Daughter Turned A Year Old Today

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And just like that, a year is over.

Babies manifest the passage of time in a dynamic way. One day they’re tiny, the next day they’re not, and suddenly they’re not even babies anymore.

On this day last year, my mom was quite literally feeding me a chicken leg in between contractions that were three minutes apart, before we met my midwife at the hospital. She insisted I needed the protein for the final few hours of labor. She was right. That chicken saved me, and Matty, who she also fed.

People say, congratulations for making it to a year, but I don’t think we deserve much credit for anything. Eva, as those of you who know her, just crushes it at life. Her fearless approach to every new encounter delights and inspires us, but perhaps her greatest gift over the last year is allowing us to maintain our freedom. Being well-rested and of good cheer, Eva let us proceed normally with adult pursuits. She has reliably gone to bed every night around 6:30pm since she was six weeks old, so Momma can get out to her happy hours and dinners as before. She also knows never to wake up before 7am, because her parents need sleep to function. And she travels with us to cities around the globe — she’s logged 22,295 miles on planes, and who knows how many on trains, boats and automobiles.

A hopeless nostalgic, I take photos and keep journals and blogs because it makes me sorta sad that *this moment* will never be, again. Our memory cards are exploding with images and videos and data from the last year. I’ve used an app to log every hour Eva’s slept, every minute she’s nursed and every diaper since her first week of life. It’s proven so helpful for understanding her natural routines so we can just go with her flow, and in packing, since we know how much stuff she consumes or uses over the course of the day. But a year seems like a nice stopping point for the relentless tracking.

Incidentally, the Washington Post just ran a story this weekend about how digitally saving every memory could actually be confusing us. If we save everything, how do we know what’s worth remembering? I think our hearts and brains figure that out. I was talking with my mom on the phone this morning and she recalled how, when I was one, I figured out how to turn my body around to go down steps legs and butt first. And how my hands kept grabbing at her collarbone when I was lost in a nursing haze. Little memories, tiny things, my momma can remember like they were just mere moments ago. She reminded me that that’s something transformatively powerful about your momma-baby relationship. It’s living and growing and changing, but also imprinted in your heart and mind forever.

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AAJA 2013: Baby in the Big Apple

Eva and Momma time in the hotel room.

Eva and Momma time in the hotel room.

Just back from a really fun and satisfying time in New York for this year’s Asian American Journalists Association annual convention. I’ve been part of AAJA since I was in 10th grade, thanks to a reporter for The Dallas Morning News who called to interview me about a student council project, I think. Whatever it was, I mentioned after the interview I wanted to be a journalist one day and she immediately encouraged me to join the organization. Since then, AAJA has been responsible for making connections that have shaped my life.

In 2002, AAJA hosted its national convention in Dallas, and that’s where I met Sudeep, who became my best friend and is responsible for introducing me to my husband Stiles. Stiles is not Asian-American by blood but often identifies with my peeps, so he joined AAJA in 2008 and has since been a much more involved member than me. He consistently reminds me to renew my membership, he has attended more AAJA conventions than I have in recent years, and he speaks on more AAJA panels than I do. He trumped me in New York, speaking on three panels to my one. I’m so proud of him!

This year, the programming really kicked things up a notch with fab workshops and thoughtful panelists. I loved seeing writer (and Twitter user) Jay Caspian Kang totally go anti-Twitter at a conference where social media networking was predictably de rigeur. Kang called Twitter a “circle jerk” and said he thinks less of people who tweet all day, saying it undermines your seriousness as a writer. That argument is for a whole different post — bottom line, exposure to unexpected points of view makes these confabs more interesting.

I regret not getting to spend more time with old friends, since that’s what is always so great about attending the annual AAJA confab. It feels like family. But I was a little time and resource constrained because of my actual family. The traveling baby, Eva, came with us (she’s a journalism convention pro now). She got to try some halal truck food, visit FAO Schwarz, have lunch with my old friend Tim, get overwhelmed by the lights and the tourists in Times Square, go shopping on Fifth Ave and take lots of her usual naps. She also enjoyed exploring the hotel room and goofing off, as you can see.

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Escape To The Mountains

In the backyard of our Colorado rental.

Eva in the backyard of our Colorado rental, sporting her NPR baby tee.

 

The spouse, Stiles, spent a few of his formative years (middle school) in Estes Park, Colorado, a gallop away from Rocky Mountain National Park. Since the early days of our now-decade-long relationship, I’ve heard him wax rhapsodic about his time in the Rockies — riding horses, shooting guns, drawing pictures of guns and that one time he watched his stepdad threaten his next door neighbor after the neighbor stole their dog. You don’t steal a man’s dog.

Jimmy and Skyler are two of the most fun people we know. We are indescribably lucky to count them among our closest Texas friends for so many reasons, not least of which are Jimmy’s mad skills in the kitchen. Jimmy is a natural who was trained in the kitchens of Spain and South Carolina. He and I have a special chi because we both believe in living a Dionysian lifestyle and I love to eat his food. (See: New Year 2011 Mussel Throwdown)

So two weeks ago, when Jimmy proposed we join his brood and three other families in the Rockies for a vacation, we moved everything around quickly to make it happen. We eight grown-ups and eight children stayed in a gorgeous, 7,000 square foot, nine-bedroom house perched high up on a knoll in Fraser, Colorado. We spent our days and nights eating Jimmy’s freshly-grilled fish and lamb and steak and other culinary creations, drinking outside underneath shooting stars  and playing with the wee ones during the day. The other families included The Haley’s, who we knew well from Austin, and The Hall’s, headed up by Jimmy’s college roommate, Clay. In keeping with the fun times, Clay is a muckity muck at Francis Ford Coppola Wines. He got two cases of wine shipped to the house before our group’s arrival.

We saw moose, elk, beavers and every afternoon a fox would come visit us in the backyard. Eva enjoyed herself so much and loved playing with the older kids, ranging from age 3 to 7. I enjoyed the food and company so much. Stiles got to take us to the continental divide up in Rocky Mountain National Park, which made him so happy.

Here Are Photos of My Brother Looking Ridiculous

Even though I gave him a hard time for, oh, our entire childhood, I’m really proud of my little brother, Roger Hu. He is risking his lungs to live in frighteningly-polluted Beijing for the sake of his startup, TeeKart. TeeKart is teaming up with golf courses across China to allow golfers to book tee times online. (I’m told that’s not a widely available service in China right now.)

TeeKart held a big launch event this week at a gorgeous course on Hainan Island, China. Cousin Cary, who is the company’s CTO, took a bunch of pictures. For some reason, Roger Hu and team decided to look UTTERLY RIDICULOUS in almost all of them. I had to share a few — he’s in the orange:

I don't even...

I don’t even…

Maybe they were being ironic?

Maybe they were being ironic?

I guess this is to show they were tired after a long day of golfing.

I guess this is to show they were tired after a long day of golfing.

 

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Mango Tree: Now a Double Amputee

Jerry at Gingko Gardens shows us where we had to amputate mango tree to save him, again.

Jerry at Gingko Gardens shows us where we had to amputate mango tree to save him, again.

 

I know I’m overly sentimental about this damned tree, but our mango tree is a survivor. Mango trees really don’t live in places north of South Florida, for one. And the now four-foot tall plant sprung up from the seed of a grocery store mango my dad ate in St. Louis and threw in the ground. It’s since survived moves from Missouri to Texas and Texas to Washington, two bouts with some nasty fungus, a lost limb and even the time Matty flew his drone into it, chopping off some of its leaves.

But mango tree is no longer four feet tall. It lost its second of two main branches today, after it fell to the same disease that cost the other one about a month ago. Thankfully, before things got worse, the mango tree had a good few weeks in which it sprouted a few baby branches closer to the root.

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